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I'm looking to understand the Health inflation commonly printed in Cypher System material (Often in module adventures, or in the little sidebars when describing setting NPCs)

In Numenera Health (HP) is generally determined by the standard Target Number

Numenera - Discovery, p 222 (Also the same in 1st Edition)

Health: A creature’s target number is usually also its health, which is the amount of damage it can sustain before it is dead or incapacitated. For easy reference, the entries always list a creature’s health, even when it’s the normal amount for a creature of its level.

Which is 3 x the Difficultly level, just for reference.

The designers elude to a caveat that sometimes monsters will just break the usual defined health often for a much higher number. I recall somewhere in 1st Ed Numenera making reference to doing this to provide more challenging combats to higher tier characters.

A brief glossing of Discovery / Destiny I've grabbed some examples:

  • Discovery p 367 - Teratoma - Level: 3 HP: 12
  • Discovery p 381 - Octopus- Level: 3 HP: 15
  • Discovery p 369 - Teratoma (M) - Level: 4 HP: 15
  • Destiny p 371 - Assassin - Level: 4 HP: 20
  • Discovery p 375 - Weymel - Level: 5 HP: 20
  • Discovery p 385 - Latos - Level: 5 HP: 25
  • Destiny p 389 - Halcus - Level: 5 HP: 20
  • Destiny p 389 - Drayva - Level: 5 HP: 20
  • Destiny p 362 - Khagun Semper - Level: 5 HP: 26
  • Destiny p 373 - Soludi - Level: 6 HP: 24
  • Destiny p 398 - Heri - Level: 6 HP: 27
  • Destiny p 398 - Scrose - Level: 7 HP: 30

There are many, many more examples spread through out Cypher Systems, OG-Numenera, Discovery, Destiny, The Strange, and Predation. And they are not one offs or used liberally, HP inflation is extremely common. As you can seen from just this small list here creatures range from Boss encounter to lowly random animals with no rhyme or reason I can perceive. Across all level ranges.

My question is Why? Is there any systematic process for doing this? Is the standard HP suggested in the Creature section just too low? I'm looking for any notes from the designer, or even personal GM experience to help gauge what is the appropriate amount of HP one should be assigning to combatants.

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This post from MCG details a possible way of thinking about creature design and gives a brief overview of MCG's design philosophy:

One of the main reasons I love GMing the Cypher System is the low prep time needed to create a memorable encounter. While preparation in most games focuses on stat blocks, Cypher System preparation focuses more on cool ideas, descriptive details, and player handouts and props. When it comes to Cypher System stat blocks, I can make a playable creature or an NPC in just a minute or two, but if I have more time I like to layer on additional details that make the creature or NPC more fun.

The article suggests this rule of thumb for health:

A creature’s health dictates how long it will survive in combat. Against low-tier characters a creature will likely lose about 10 points of health per round. So I look for a basic encounter to have about 35 total points of health among all the creatures or NPCs—to have a three-to-four round encounter. (Mid-tier characters likely will dish out about 16 points of damage per round, so make that total 55 health. And for higher-tier characters, it’s likely 22 points per round, and 70 health works well.)

The section you quoted from Discovery should be understood as a guideline, which is why you see so many discrepancies. As the article notes, Cypher generally isn't interested in providing detailed stat blocks or highly tuned formulas for this or that. It wants you as the GM to decide what makes sense, what you think would be cool, or thrilling, or exciting for you and your players, and go from there.

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